I’ve decided to no longer use boxed cake mixes, or at least not keep them in my pantry (caveat presented later). Ditto for canned frosting (it’s not as good anyways). Last week I finished, K. Flinn’s Kitchen Counter Cooking School, in which she presents straight forward food, eating and cooking advice. One chapter addresses cake mixes: presents history, breaks down the façade of time savings and ties it up with a bow noting that nostalgia and warm fuzzies outweighs the harm. Love confetti cakes? Then make it. So, what drove me to this choice? Without referring back to the book for the specs, here is what was in my mind yesterday:
- Wait! I still have to add three ingredients to the mix? A recipe from scratch doesn’t have much more.
- It doesn’t take much more time
- Lots more sugar, but from scratch is all ingredients you have on hand
- Almost creepy long list of ingredients in the box, too many syllables
Unfortunately, this decision has put one of my go to cook books at odds. I love and am slowly working through the KCCS book, and while a new addition, see it hanging around and influencing for quite some time. In contrast, my well-loved Cake Mix Doctor cookbook isn’t going to get as much action. While sad, I carefully crafted my proclamation that cake mixes would not be in my pantry – this allows me the wiggle room to buy a mix for a specific Cake Mix Doctor recipe (note these have often have quite a few steps and additions). There are some yummy ones and while I am sure I can make from scratch, I do like the results. I may try modifying a scratch cake to fit the Doctor’s orders……
I also love making cake mixes in Mason Jars and as gifts. Note Exhibit A: Bridal Shower party favors
To honor the long-live cake mix (both in shelf stability and time on earth, more than 60 years) and clean out a few things for the last time, I decided to make a boysenberry chocolate cake. Game plan: mix about ¼ cup jam into mix and then spread a layer in between 8 inch rounds, frost and top with M&Ms (new flavor: raspberry chocolate discovered in LV airport). Instead of flouring to prep the pan, I used cocoa powder, to add chocolate flavor but also avoid white gunk on a chocolate cake. Worked like a charm!
Cake turned out fine (nothing too special) but while making the cake (destined for somewhere else) and slicing the layers to make flat, I was inspired and, frankly, more excited about the remnants. Thinking about all the berries in the fridge and sudden overwhelming desire to make trifle, I did.
A trifle is a god send for any failed cake, cake chunks, store bought angel food cake, frozen pound cakes etc… I found a few recipes out there and mixed them together based on what I had lingering around the kitchen and came up with what I will call: Balsamic Strawberry Chocolate Trifle. I wouldn’t get too hung up on if you have enough of this and that, just taste the creamy part, taste the saucy part and layer away. Think about other add-ins to make it stretch.
Not enough strawberries? Add other berries, like blackberries (I did).
Ran out of yogurt and cream cheese layer (or didn’t have any to start)? Use cool whip, whipped cream, just yogurt or vanilla ice-cream.
Not a lot of cake? Just use more of everything else or maybe sneak some Nilla wafers in or something.
Needs some more sauce? Try liquor, thinned out jam, thickened juice etc…
Balsamic Strawberry Chocolate Trifle
- 8×8 pan batch chocolate cake or brownies, angel food cake, pound cake, cookies etc. [or whatever amount you had, I ended up with about this much after flattening the two 8 inch round pans for the two layer cake.
- Strawberries, sliced [not scientific – use more, less, add other fruit] and some just quartered for eventual puree
- ½ teaspoon to 1 teaspoon vanilla extract for yogurt, cream cheese filling
- 1 – 2 cups plain Greek yogurt [I used my homemade yogurt, sour cream or cool-whip would work just fine. I think you could use a berry or honey flavored yogurt here too without much impact, given that it matches final flavor profile]
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened [about a 1:2 ratio with yogurt – I only had 4 ounces, and used 1 cup yogurt, was a little short but no big gig]
- ⅓ cup sugar [granulated, or I think powdered would work fine too] for cream filling & ¼ cup granulated sugar for puree
- 1 teaspoon orange zest (optional)
- 2 tablespoons orange juice [fresh squeezed or out of your favorite carton]
- 1 tsp balsamic vinegar [don't have any? Don't worry, it will be fine without it]
- 2 tsp cornstarch plus 2 tablespoons tap cold water to make a paste
- Mint leaves for garnish [totally optional, but pretty, I didn't have any]
- Slice cake or brownies into cubes, not too small that they crumble (1-2 inch). Or just break it up into chunks with your hands!
- Cream yogurt, softened cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until smooth. Chill until ready to use if you want. I didn’t.
- In a small sauce pan, combine strawberries, sugar, orange zest, orange juice and balsamic vinegar and bring to a simmer. You could add liquor here (Cointreau anyone?)
- Reduce heat to medium-low and cover. Cook for 15 minutes to thicken, but watch because it bubbles up real quick
- Whisk cornstarch with cold water in a small bowl. Mix cornstarch mixture with strawberry mixture and continue to cook for 3-5 minutes. Or add liquor here…
- Remove from heat and let the puree cool.
- To puree: mash with potato masher or put in blender and blend on high until smooth. But why mess up the blender?
- Stop and assess the quantities of the main layer ingredients: cake, sliced berries, berry puree, yogurt cream sauce.
- Select your vessels: big bowl? Trifle stand? Individual glasses? Whatever, just make it something clear.
- Plan your attack to divee out.
- To assemble trifles, start with a layer of cake chunks. Next, add a layer of sliced strawberries and spoon over some yogurt cream. Drizzle some strawberry puree. Repeat this layering until it is all used up.
- Top with powdered sugar, ice cream, mint, whipped cream, chocolate sauce, reduced balsamic vinegar or all of the above, if desired. Don’t forget that you can really get away with just about anything in a trifle….
I hadn’t planned on blogging this so no step by step but here is the final product. Talk about how to win friends and influence people (and clean out the fridge)!
Adapted from epicurious.com, allrecipes.com, bouillie.us and my taste bud reference lab. Thank you to the cake mix for making extra and my fridge for having some inspiring ingredients, but not quite enough of any, forcing me to be creative.